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Lesson Plans

Re: computers/physically challenged/art

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
wendy sauls (wsauls)
Sun, 22 Mar 1998 18:28:07

hi all,

i have been listening with great interest to the posts relating to attire
and adornment and have refrained from comment in the hopes of reaching a
point where i express myself with clarity and without ranting on and on...

i am a 32 year old middle school art teacher (10 years exp.) working in a
college town. a month ago i dyed the bangs of my hair bright green. i
wanted to do something different and fun, but not outrageous or painful.
green is my favorite color, and a good one for spring, too! i knew i
would be certainly noticed at first, but honestly didn't think it would be
a huge deal.

my supervisor has confronted me indirectly several times, first in
reference to several students who dyed their hair after i did mine. my
supervisor said other teachers were complaining the students' hair color
disrupted class, although she didn't elaborate as to specifically how. i
have the idea that it disrupted class just as much as when someone gets a
new pair of $100 nikes and everyone checks them out. i also imagined a
scene like in the odor eaters commercial, with a big, noxious colored cloud
rising over the kids' heads. i know most of the students who have colored
their hair, and have never seen them be disciplinary problems or rude or
disrespectful. i would be one happy parent if the "worst" thing my kid
ever did was dye their hair a "funny" color! i would also be pretty happy
if my kid decided to invest in a $8 bottle of hair dye for personal self
expression rather than insisting on $70 tommy jeans, etc. maybe weird
haircolor is like a gateway drug or something? my supervisor has also
asked me several times if the dye is permanent, and when its going to be
gone... i know, i know, i'm lucky i still have my job, right? and lucky to
be an art teacher...

i have been told by others my hair color was unprofessional. i find it
hard to believe that my professionalism would be judged on the basis of the
color of my bangs and not the fact that i put in a tremendous amount of
time and energy and love, practically devote my life to, trying to present
the best, most interesting, culturally diverse, educational and fun art
curriculum possible to my kids.

i love my bangs, and plan to keep them, and maybe change colors once in a
while when i get tired of the green. i have gotten lots of positive
feedback, and since i'm happy with them, and they are my choice, the
negative comments don't bother me too much. but it has made me think a
lot. i have gotten stares, to be expected, certainly, but also people have
shaken their head, said "that's awful/horrible" (strangers!), asked why/how
i could/would do it... i have wondered how people who don't choose their
"difference" like i have, people who are different by way of a birth
defect, accident, or even people who are different than the majority in a
particular setting simply by the (natural) color of their skin, or people
who dress in the attire of their culture must feel when they are
"recognized" in similar ways. it seems to be, despite many desperate
attempts and claims by our society to be "correct", looking different,
whatever the cause, is not a plus or very widely accepted.

in the usa, we pride ourselves on our incredible freedoms, which i
appreciate, too. but sometimes we aren't aware of or don't want to
confront the rigid norms and expecations of our society. the
expectations to not steal or to be polite to others are rational and serve
the good of all. i do feel it is beneficial, however, to question and
challenge norms which seem to be oppressive and serving no good purpose.
many people dye their hair red, brown, black, blonde... but other colors
are off limits and unprofessional?

other cultures dye, paint, pierce, elongate, tattoo, scarify, adorn... is
it that we think we are so superior and modern and clean and civilized that
we shouldn't do any of that?

i realize we are judged by how we look, but that realization does not mean
i accept it as legitimate and valid. i am not trying to deny reality, but
am interested in changing it, maybe. if everyone caves in to nonsensical
rules, and we encourage our kids to conform, confrom, conform, are we
really moving in a positive direction?

as a teacher, especially a visual art teacher, i would like to influence
people to express themselves creatively in whatever mode they choose as
long as it doesn't physically or emotionally hurt anyone. i would also
like to encourage my students to think critically and recognize and
challenge uneccessary obstacles in their lives.

i would like to invite the principal who complained about the piercings to
an intellectual debate. why not the piercings? what are his/her reasons
against them?

when you get right down to it, if a principal can demand for teachers not
to have piercings, or green hair, why not ask for teachers to wear little
short skirts with lacy undies? or a long black dress with a veil? or camos
and combat boots? or whatever fits their personal "thing"?

sometimes it doesn't really seem like we live in the land of the FREE and
home of the BRAVE at all.

one of my wonderful art teacher friends said she would love to dye her hair
unusually but she would be afraid. what a bummer!

several years ago there was a court case, indiv. vs. school board,
regarding hair color. it went through several courts, but guess who won?
yay! the sb failed miserably at proving disruption.

some people will read this now long post and surmise that i'm making a big
deal over small potatos. i WISH how people look, such very small deviations
from the norm, was not such a big deal. but it is, and i think it is kind
of a cop out to give advice to "just accept it, especially if you want to
keep your job." if you think its ok to hassle people and judge them and
dictate what they wear, then say so. if not, don't cave/encourage caving!

so much for not ranting.


Wendy Sauls
Art Teacher, Kanapaha Middle School, Gainesville, FL
Doctoral Student, Art Education, Florida State University
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